Video recordings from the Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day with speakers Catherine Grant, Dorothy Rowe, Gill Perry, Kathy Battista, Melanie Manchot and Gavin Butt.
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 1: Gill Perry
Session 1: Introduction to the Themes of the Day.
Speaker: Gill Perry, Senior Lecturer and Head of Art History, The Open University.
Germaine Greer has described Kahlo as ‘the first ever true performance artist’. Gill Perry considers this claim in relation to recent debates about the meanings of performance art, and in comparison with the activities of a later generation of women artists, including the work of Carolee Schneemann, Ana Mendieta and Hannah Wilke from the 1960s and 70s. She explores how several women artists from this period appropriated performance art to explore their own sexual identities, bodily experiences and illness, to expose the limits of the category of ‘art’, and to reflect on the relationships between viewers and artworks.
G .Perry (ed.), Difference and Excess in Contemporary Art: The Visibility of Women’s Practice, Blackwells, 2004
G. Perry, ‘The Expanding Field: Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series’, in Frameworks for Modern Art, Yale University Press, 2004
G. Perry (ed.), Gender and Art, Yale University Press, 1999
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 2: Kathy Battista
Session 2: Women Artists, Pain and Self-Portraiture.
Speaker: Kathy Battista, writer and lecturer.
Kathy Battista explores how women artists have used pain (both physical and emotional) as a medium. She considers three historical moments: Frida Kahlo’s works from the 1940s including Without Hope, 1945, Tree of Hope, Keep Firm, 1946, and The Broken Column, 1944; feminist artists Hannah Wilke and Jo Spence’s work from the late 1980s and early 1990s including Intra Venus (Wilke) 1993 and Narratives of Dis-ease (Spence) 1989; and Tracey Emin’s work from the late 1990s. The presentation draws on the theoretical work of writers such as Judith Butler, Elaine Scarry and Susan Sontag.
Susan Sontag, Regarding The Pain of Others, Penguin, 2004
Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain, Oxford University Press, 1985
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 3: Melanie Manchot
Session 3: Artist’s Presentation.
Speaker: Melanie Manchot.
Melanie Manchot will talk through a selection of recent works in relation to a performative approach to photography and portraiture. She will discuss her use of cameras, both moving and still, as tools to create encounters on the threshold between staged and documentary practice. Many of these works are made with strangers, often in public spaces, and aim to articulate relationships between the individual and collective space. In the most recent works the connection between personal stories and wider historical narratives has become more important.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling (Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity)
Vilem Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 4: panel discussion
A discussion between Gill Perry, Melanie Manchot and Kathy Battista along with questions from the audience.
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 5: Gavin Butt
Session 4: You Cannot Be Serious!: Gender Performance and Queer Authenticity
Speaker: Gavin Butt, Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College
Performance has often been approached as a sign of non-serious or value-less activity in the 20th and 21st century. For instance, in speaking pejoratively of someone as ‘theatrical’, we can see how performance is sometimes associated with a lack of authenticity, in this case by implying that they are exaggerated or affected, ‘too much’ to be taken seriously. Gavin Butt argues that this lack of seriousness refigures our relationship to so-called serious culture and ‘authentic’ acts and expressions. By considering the queer cabaret of New York duo Kiki and Herb and the pop performance of Antony and the Johnsons, he explores how such work refashions authentic expression and serious attention precisely through the supposedly non-serious forms of hyperbolised performance - of expressly artificial, ‘unnatural’, and theatrical forms sex/gender presentation. Further Reading
Susan Sontag, ‘Notes on Camp’, in A Susan Sontag Reader, Penguin, 1982, pp. 105-119
Judith Halberstam, ‘Drag Kings: Masculinity and Performance’, in Female Masculinities, Duke University Press, 1998, pp. 231-266
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 6: Dorothy Rowe
Session 5: Wigs of Wonderment: Performing Race and Gender in the work of moti roti
Speaker: Dorothy Rowe, Senior Lecturer and Programme Convenor in Art History at Roehampton University
Wigs of Wonderment, a performance piece by Keith Khan’s live art group, moti roti, is a self-declared ‘investigation of issues around race and gender, as manifest in hair and beauty’ where the experience of beauty is performed as a ‘sensory journey’ for and by its performer-participants. One of the pivotal ways in which meanings are generated by the project in its various live manifestations is via the emphasis on a one-to-one dialogue between the individual performer and participant in front of a mirror, with no other audience present. The participant, guided by ‘flow co-ordinators’ from room to room, activates the performance by their presence in a particular space (which includes rooms for hair, make-up, perfumes, consultation and massage). Through an emphasis on the sensuousness of visual, auditory and olfactory experiences, set off against the disrupted identities generated by the artifice of masquerade, the project offers opportunities for a creative exploration of identity formation. This talk introduces the audience to the series of themes that structure the interactive CD-ROM version of this performance event.
Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity , London and New York: Routledge, 1990
Jones, Amelia and Stephenson, Andrew (eds.), Performing the Body: Performing the Text, London and New York: Routledge, 1999
Mercer, Kobena, ‘Busy in the Ruins of Wretched Fantasia’ in Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire, London, ICA/inIVA, 1995
Rowe, Dorothy, ‘Cultural Crossings: Performing Race and Gender in the work of moti roti’ in Perry, Gill (ed.), Difference and Excess in Contemporary Art: The Visibility of Women’s Practice, Oxford & Boston: Blackwell, 2004
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 7: Catherine Grant
Session 6: Baby Butches and Reluctant Lolitas: Performances of Adolescence
Speaker: Catherine Grant, art historian and editor at Black Dog Publishing
Collier Schorr and Hellen van Meene are contemporary photographers who are both known for their seductive, glossy portraits of adolescent girls, coming to prominence in the 1990s with a number of other women photographers who focus on the adolescent in their photography. Their portraits play with traditional voyeuristic modes of looking, with the older female photographer taking the place of the voyeuristic male and the model taking the place of ‘Lolita’. Catherine Grant considers the performances that take place in their photographs, addressing issues of ‘queer’ looking and the construction of a sexualised identity. Examples from the history of photography are brought in, including EJ Bellocq’s portraits of prostitutes from the 1910s and Karlheinz Weinberger’s portraits of biker boys from the 1950s.
Bush, Kate, Hellen van Meene: Portraits, New York: Aperture, 2004
Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London and New York: Routledge, 1990
Butler, Judith, “Melancholy Gender / Refused Identification”, in The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997
Princenthal, Nancy, “Body Count: Recent Photographs of Women by Women, and Some Precedents,” Artext, no. 72, 2000, pp 64-71
Townsend, Chris, Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis of Looking, Germany and New York: Prestel, 1998, (on Collier Schorr)
Performance, Gender and Identity Study Day – Part 8: panel discussion
A discussion between Gavin Butt, Dorothy Rowe and Catherine Grant along with questions from the audience.